Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sausage, Tomato, and Herb Pizza

Simplicity is one of the most important ingredients in homemade pizza—or any dish, for that matter. Here, it’s spicy Italian sausage, fresh tomato slices, mozzarella, and a few chopped herbs sprinkled on at the end. And while you don’t have to use homemade dough, if the opportunity is there, take it.

My husband is the bread baker in our house, and usually the pizza dough maker. He’s been using a recipe from Men’s Journal (Feb. 2013), which makes a really good crust with Sam Adams beer (one recipe makes two 12- to 14-inch round pizzas). He makes the dough then freezes it in separate balls, so I’ve typically got homemade dough ready to thaw, roll out, and bake whenever the mood strikes. (The Men’s Journal recipe is copied below.)

This time I rolled out the dough to a 16 X 10-inch rectangle in order to bake the pizza on a cast-iron griddle, instead of a round pan. The shape, of course, is secondary to the taste, so roll out the dough to whatever best fits the pan you’re using.

If you use a store-bought crust, check the label to see if the oven temperature and baking time are different from this recipe.

A note about the sausage: I didn’t crumble the sausage during cooking to spread over the entire pizza. Instead, I pinched it from the casings and cooked it in little, uneven pieces that give the pie a more rustic, homemade look and feel. If you prepare the sausage links a couple hours ahead of time, place the pieces on wax paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pinch the sausage into pieces and flatten 
Refrigerate on wax paper if not using right away
For a different homemade crust recipe, check out Pizza with Prosciutto, Red Onion, and Fresh Tomatoes. For a store-bought crust recipe, try Pancetta Pizza with Olives, Dates, and Leek. And for a super-simple and quick recipe, see Pita Pizzas with Prosciutto and Red Pear.

Makes 1 16 X 10-inch pizza

Dough Ingredients and Preparation
(from Men’s Journal, Feb. 2013)

• 3 1/2 cups (20 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
• 1 packet instant, high-active yeast
• 1 tablespoon fine granulation salt
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 1 bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager warmed up to 120-130 degrees

Warm the beer in a bowl of very warm, not boiling, water. If you don't have a thermometer, the beer should end up feeling very warm to the touch.

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, and oil and then build up a pile in the center.

Crack open a cold beer (for you), and use the warmed brew to make a moat around the flour and stir with a fork until the dough is lumpy. Then, go in with your hands. The dough should be a little sticky, so you can gradually add flour as you knead until it is just slightly tacky. Knead slowly by pressing down, folding it inside-out, and repeating.

Break the finished dough into two equal pieces.

Ball each piece up and place each in a separate airtight plastic container lightly greased with olive oil (we used quart-sized takeout deli containers).

(At this point, my husband froze the dough balls. I thawed one for the recipe below.)

Pizza Ingredients
  • 3 hot Italian sausage links (about 3/4 lb)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • cornmeal, for dusting
  • flour, for dusting
  • 1 homemade pizza dough (from recipe above), or 1 14- to 16-inch crust
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • sea salt 
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp mixture of chopped fresh herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, sage, and oregano)  
Roma Tomatoes
Pizza Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Pinch the sausage from the casings in about 1 tablespoon-sized pieces and flatten slightly.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Add the sausage pieces to the pan and cook until browned and just cooked through, turning once, 7-8 minutes total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels and drain.
Sausage Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Sausage
  1. Dust a cast-iron griddle with cornmeal.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 16 X 10-inch rectangle (or whatever shape fits the pan you’re using). Lay the dough on the griddle and crimp the edges. Brush with olive oil.
  3. Spread the crushed tomatoes over the dough and sprinkle with dried oregano. Scatter the mozzarella on top.
  4. Top with tomato slices and sausage pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bake the pizza until the crust is crisp and the tomatoes have softened, about 15- minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board.
Dust with Cornmeal 
Roll Dough into a Rectangle
Place Dough on the Pan
Crushed Tomatoes and Dried Oregano 
Cheese Added
Ready to Bake
Baked Pizza
Scatter fresh herbs over top and cut into serving pieces.

Sausage, Tomato, and Herb Pizza

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